When is it appropriate to send verbal abuse to someone you don’t know personally? When is it appropriate to tell someone that you hope they lose their job or suffer significant personal injury? The obvious answer to these questions should all be “never,” and yet a new article by small indie developer Morgan Jaffit points out that in the game industry, dealing with vicious targeted abuse is part of the cost of doing business. Development across the board is dealing with people who feel that there is a point when all of this is appropriate, even if they differ on the circumstances when it’s appropriate.
Needless to say, this has a pretty huge impact on development, and it spills over to related fields. (Is it appropriate to say awful things to a community manager over a feature you don’t like when the community manager is not a developer and had nothing to do with it?) The article cites the omnipresence of social media and the popularity of personalities who “tell it like it is” (read: spew invective and curses at top volume), and it’s the sort of thing that everyone who cares about the future of games should read and consider.
Among last year’s toxicity-in-gaming stories was the one that taught the internet an important lesson: how to spell homunculus. No, that wasn’t it. It was “don’t be a game dev who insults and jokes about your toxic players’ deaths,” or at least, don’t get caught, because at the end of it all, the toxic players will still be playing and you’ll be out of a lucrative job.
We’re talking here, of course, about Tyler1, who was banned by Riot Games from League of Legends back in 2016 for toxicity – in his case, specifically verbal abuse, harassment, and outright cheating. Even though he kept streaming, you probably forgot all about him until October 2017, when Riot’s Lead Experience Designer apparently drank a little bit too much joy and then called him a “humunculus” in public, remaking that it’d be “gucci” if Tyler1 were to “die from a coke overdose or testicular cancer from all the steroids.” Though Tyler1 (wisely) stated he wasn’t upset and had no hard feelings over the insults, Riot still fired the employee.
And while the whole ordeal did cause a noticeable spike in google searches for the word homunculus, which continues to amuse me, it may have also influenced Riot’s decision to unban him, news that he announced on his twitter account yesterday and which appears to have been confirmed obliquely by Riot.
Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2017 awards continue today with our award for Biggest MMO Industry Disappointment, which was awarded to EverQuest Next’s cancellation and No Man’s Sky’s lack of multiplayer in a tie last year. Disappointments can be games, launches, patches, trends, stories, sunsets, all manner of topics in the MMORPG genre and orbiting sub-genres. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end.
The Massively OP staff pick for Biggest MMO Industry Disappointment of 2017 is…
The complex and often times toxic environment of Overwatch continues to make the popular team shooter a source of controversy and attention. Even Game Director Jeff Kaplan seems fed up with it, publicly calling out a troll on the forums and giving direct examples of the player’s abrasive behavior.
“Our community has made it clear to us that toxicity is one of the top issues that needs to be addressed in this game,” Kaplan said. “As a result, we’re getting stricter and that means people are going to get suspended and banned for poor behavior. You’ve fallen into that category.”
Meanwhile, players in Overwatch’s competitive scene are grappling with the ongoing issue of “smurfs” — that is, multiple accounts run by the same person who is attempting to grab several spots in the top 500. While smurfing isn’t forbidden by the studio, some feel that it is unfair since it blocks other players from getting into the top 500. How widespread and prevalent smurfing is at this point is not exactly known, but there are suspicions that it is fairly rampant.
Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan gave an interview on Reddit this week that provides an interesting perspective from an original World of Warcraft developer who defected to Overwatch.
“I think classic is a great idea,” he says. “I have great nostalgia for what the game was. I think people need to be careful about what they think the magic was versus what it actually was. I don’t think what made the classic servers great was the shitty quests. I’m allowed to say that because I wrote all of them.”
Indeed, he stresses the importance of community and lauds the absence of the dungeon finder, but he also points out that some of vanilla’s problems: the lack of server transfers, the lack of well-distributed auction halls, and the smaller servers.
Toxicity in online gaming is easily one of the biggest stories of the year, particularly in Overwatch, where Blizzard has been focusing its anti-toxicity efforts with such persistence that it’s almost become silly. And yet here we are, with the problem unsolved and a whole lot of people sure it’s unsolveable or content to direct victims to just “ignore” it.
So how bad is it? Eurogamer collected clips of female gamers and streamers being harassed via voice chat in Overwatch and toted them to BlizzCon, showing them to attendees who agreed to be interviewed about their reactions and their own experiences. Forewarning if you’re going to watch the video below: The clips are awful and will make you angry once you realize they aren’t parody. The worst part? Most of the men and women Eurogamer interviewed basically all have that same stony look on their faces that I currently have on mine because it’s par for the course – and it’s just the misogyny brand of toxicity. The video doesn’t even touch on racism or homophobia.
MOP reader Tyler sent us a tip over the weekend that keeps bothering me. According to a post made on Facebook this weekend, a World of Warcraft player took his life over in-game bullying. I haven’t been able to verify whether it truly happened, but I can verify that the replies to the thread about it were just as toxic as the toxicity that allegedly led to the tragedy itself, with people victim-blaming, insulting those with mental disorders, inserting antique arguments about the efficacy of report-and-ignore, inquiring as to the victim’s loot drops, and suggesting that they themselves “need to step up [their] trolling game,” presumably because nothing’s funnier than suggesting your trolling is sub par since you haven’t managed to get anyone killed yet. If you’re a giant asshole, that is.
“I have never understood why the MMO community is so eager to bury its head in the sand about stuff like this,” Tyler lamented. “Even the people who do admit that in-game harassment, hate speech, and the like are actually a bad thing never seem to actually do anything about it. This is something we should be raising hell about. […] I stopped caring when I realized no one else cared.”
I know people care. There are even people in that toxic thread shouting down the monsters. But I do acknowledge that every article we do on toxicity spawns more toxicity against people trying to solve the problem, and some days it feels like we’re getting nowhere. Maybe we’re approaching the problem wrong: We often debate what studios should do. What about the rest of us? How can individual MMO players combat toxicity? What do you do yourself, beyond the bare minimum of report-and-ignore?
Welcome along to another edition of Guild Chat, the column through which Massively Overpowered readers can air their guild issues and get help solving them from the article and its comments. This time, guild leader Ry has asked for advice on using trigger warnings and dealing with sensitive topics within the guild environment after one of her members left the guild over a difficult topic was discussed in the guild and took members with him due to the public nature of the conversation. Ry wants to know whether or not guilds have any sort of responsibility for the conversations held within them and the content that players might see there, and she also wants to know how to deal with similar scenarios should they ever come up again.
Ry’s full submission better outlines the issue at hand, though anything specific about the trigger incident has been removed so as to protect the dignity and privacy of the person who left the guild. Even though Ry ensured that he is not identifiable by her submission content, I’d hate for that person to perhaps stumble across this article and see that context spelt out here. Read below for my advice on the issue and don’t forget to add your thoughts on the matter in the comments below. Remember that I am in no way qualified to give advice on dealing with mental health issues or supporting friends through trauma and that all advice given here is purely supportive.
We’ve been complaining about lockboxes a lot lately as an unwelcome psychological trick in gaming, so this morning, I wanted to talk about a welcome one. To do so, let me invoke the wisdom of blog The Psychology of Video Games. Author Jamie Madigan discusses “automatic helping behaviors” that studios can take advantage of to combat toxicity; he notes that researchers have found your attitude doesn’t always control your actions – you can often be tricked into an attitude based on your actions.
So if a game like Guild Wars 2 finds a way to incentivize you into resurrecting other players and helping them in combat, you begin to perceive yourself as the kind of person who helps – and you might just begin reflexively helping elsewhere, even when you don’t have to. That leads to situations, at least in GW2, where people will actually stop fighting to rush over to res a stranger, perpetuating that warm fuzzy feeling.
In a game like Overwatch, it’s even more automatic, as your character fires off compliments when characters nearby perform well. See and hear “yourself” do that enough and suddenly, that’s the kind of player you are.
Are you a fan of MMOs that employ this “trick” to encourage cooperation and community building? Where else have you seen it used to good effect?
Last week, news that Riot Games Lead Experience Designer Aaron “RiotSanjuro” Rutledge had insulted a banned League of Legends streamer in a public chat under the Riot tag, calling him a “humunculus” and remarking, “[H]e’ll die from a coke overdose or testicular cancer from all the steroids.. then we’ll be gucci.” Following the circulation of the comments on Reddit, Rutledge initially appeared to deflect criticism and defend his comments before being digitally strung up by the community and dressed-down by Riot. And while the target of the slurs, so-toxic-he-was-already-banned Tyler1, dismissed the insult, saying he had no hard feelings, within a few days Rutledge announced he was no longer with the company.
That’s apparently because Riot, a massive online gaming studio ostensibly at the forefront of the push to reduce toxicity in gaming, fired him. In fact, in an interview with Rolling Stone’s Glixel blog, Rutledge says he respects Riot’s decision to boot him, saying he’d have done the same in the studio’s position and noting he’s since checked himself into rehab, as “too many whiskeys” contributed to his lapse in judgment (and to what he now refers to as his “spectacularly stupid” defense).
Two days ago, we reported that a League of Legends
developer had landed himself in hot water after he went grossly overboard in insulting a banned troll and streamer
while using a Riot tag in a public Discord channel. The dev, Aaron “Sanjuro” Rutledge
, publicly suggested that it’d be “gucci” if the streamer would die from “a coke overdose or testicular cancer from all the steroids,” after likening him to a “humunculus,” incidentally causing a spike in searches for the word “humunculus.”
This triggered a quick and harsh response from both the community and Riot Games. Riot and Rutledge apologized for the comment and said he was taking some time away from the community, but now it looks as if they’ve severed ties completely.
Rutledge has since posted the following comment on his Facebook page: “Heads up to friends and family. I no longer work at Riot Games. Please call or txt me for more details.” There is no confirmation as to whether he was fired or voluntarily left the studio, as neither party has yet addressed the circumstances.
Over the weekend, a Riot Games
developer made a Terrible Mistake: Lead Experience Designer Aaron “RiotSanjuro” Rutledge insulted a banned streamer in League of Legends’ public Discord
using an official Riot account, saying the streamer “looks like a damn humunculus.”
“[H]e’ll die from a coke overdose or testicular cancer from all the steroids.. then we’ll be gucci,” he wrote. That caused community uproar as some players interpreted that as not just an insult but a wish for the streamer’s death.
Sanjuro has since apologized for the comment.
“I displayed a gross error in judgement last night and whole-heartedly apologize for my comments. They were out of line, and not what any of you deserve to hear, especially from a Rioter. I’ll be taking time away from Reddit, discord and in game chat to reflect on how I communicate with players. Sorry again for the insults and the language.”
As the discussion and response to Overwatch’s legendary toxicity problem continues, even the development team isn’t spared from the impact of this, ahem, “passionate” community.
Game Director Jeff Kaplan wrote a somewhat raw essay to tell players what it is like to be a developer on the project and deal with the stress and harassment that comes with it. “Developers speak to you directly, using our real names,” he said. “And if you’ll allow me to speak openly for a moment — it’s scary. Overall, the community is awesome to us. But there are some pretty mean people out there. All of our developers are free to post on these forums. Very few of us actually do because it’s extremely intimidating and/or time consuming.”
Kaplan also paints a somewhat sad picture of a team that is pressured to keep up with the game and on top of all of its controversies: “Overwatch is a 24/7, 365 days a year affair for us. Overwatch doesn’t stop because it’s 5 o’clock on a Friday evening. Overwatch doesn’t stop because it’s our kids’ birthday.”
Maybe it’s OK to take a break once in a while? That kid deserves a dad to watch him blow out the candles on his cake. Just saying.